Idaho Public Utilities Commission
Case No. ALL-T-10-01, Order No. 32209
April 4, 2011
Contact: Gene Fadness (208) 334-0339, 890-2712
Wireless company qualifies for high-cost support in rural Idaho
State regulators have granted a request by Allied Wireless Communications Corporation, doing business in Idaho as Alltel Wireless, to be declared eligible to receive federal funds to expand its wireless network to serve several rural areas of Idaho.
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission ruled that Alltel qualifies as an “eligible telecommunications carrier” (ETC). The designation means the wireless carrier is now eligible to receive support from the federal Universal Service Fund (USF). The USF was created by Congress to ensure that telephone consumers in rural areas – where it costs more to build a telephone network – can have access to the same telecommunications services as consumers in urban areas at roughly the same cost. All telephone companies providing interstate service contribute to the USF. The companies pass that cost on to their customers who pay a portion of their bill each month to support the Universal Service Fund.
Competitive wireless companies now receive the same federal support as wireline companies if state commissions find that ETC designation promotes competition and is in the public interest. Edge Wireless became the first cellular phone company in Idaho to qualify for ETC designation in 2007.
Alltel will provide service to 20 rural wire centers now served by five incumbent telephone companies. (A wire center is a geographic area served by a central office switch, which provides dial tone and dialing functions.) The wire centers are in areas now served by Cambridge Telephone Company (Cambridge, Council, Cuprum, Lowman and Indian Valley), CenturyTel of Idaho (Leadore, North Fork and Salmon), Custer Telephone Cooperative (Challis, Clayton, Elk Bend and May) Famers Mutual Telephone Co. (Fruitland and Nu Acres) and Midvale Telephone Exchange (Lakeview, Midvale, Warm Lake, Warren and Yellow Pine).
Alltel cited five public interest benefits in its application including: 1) higher speed service, 2) potential solution to health and safety risks by not having to travel long distances to find a telephone (its customers will have access to E 911 dispatch); 3) negligible impact on the overall Universal Service Fund; 4) the benefit of increased competition and economic development in rural areas and 5) no possibility for “cream skimming,” or serving only those customers within an exchange’s lower cost areas and not building the network out to also take in customers in more remote, high-cost areas. Alltel maintains it will serve the entire wire center in all its areas, not just the lower-cost areas.
The commission said ETC designation is in the public interest because Alltel had demonstrated it is capable of providing the services described in its application, has a viable network plan to provide service throughout the areas, has a local use plan that is similar to the companies already serving the area and is able to remain functional during emergencies.
A full text of the commission’s order, along with other documents related to this case, is available on the commission’s Web site at www.puc.idaho.gov. Click on “File Room” and then on “Telecom Cases” and scroll down to case number ALL-T-10-01.
Interested parties may petition the commission for reconsideration by no later than April 12. Petitions for reconsideration must set forth specifically why the petitioner contends that the order is unreasonable, unlawful or erroneous. Petitions should include a statement of the nature and quantity of evidence the petitioner will offer if reconsideration is granted.
Petitions can be delivered to the commission at 472 W. Washington St. in Boise, mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID, 83720-0074, or faxed to 208-334-3762.